Sophomore Callista Trent is used to being the anonymous new girl. But when her mother’s nomadic job finally keeps her family in one place long enough to force Callista to settle in, she wants none of it. She doesn’t expect it to last, anyway—it never does.
She also doesn’t expect to stumble across a group of shinobi, modern-day ninjas who also happen to be high school students. Or for them to claim destiny sent her to join them. Or for the hot, harmonica-playing loner from her chemistry class to be one of the instructors.
For once, she starts to think that maybe she could belong somewhere. But she quickly learns her new friends aren’t running some casual karate school. And when Callista’s assigned to a dangerous mission they say only she can complete, she begins to suspect it wasn’t destiny that brought her to the shinobi at all but a carefully laid plan. Oh, and the worst part? The boy she thought she could trust may have known the truth all along.
“What exactly does destiny want with me?” Callista asked.
Nick leaned forward, angling toward her. She half expected him to whisper in her ear. Luckily, he didn’t. “It wants you to train to become a shinobi.”
He stuck his hand into his pockets. “You might know us better as ninjas.”
She almost dropped the tuna. “Ninjas? As in hi-yah, chop chop? Black masks?”
The corners of Nick’s lips twitched, revealing the dimple in his left cheek. “I like to think of it as a five-hundred-year-old organization of highly trained operatives who have perfected the art of secrecy. And no masks. Kind of went out of style a hundred years ago.”
Callista waited several seconds, leaving time for him to laugh and give away the joke at her expense.
Still, she wasn’t that gullible. “Do I need to worry about tripping over any mutant teenage turtles?”
He exhaled in a short burst and pulled his hands from his pockets. He flexed them a few times. “Watch.” He turned to the closet person. “Aaron, attack me.”
Aaron straightened, and it was suddenly impossible not to notice he was a good four inches taller and twenty pounds heavier than Nick.
She expected Aaron to stroll over and square off like she’d seen in karate classes. Instead, he leaped at Nick.
“Watch out—” Callista started, but Aaron had already reached him, fists flying.
Suddenly, Nick’s hand shot out, striking and hooking Aaron’s arm. The move twisted Aaron mid-stride. He landed on his back, his knuckles cracking loudly on the concrete, his breath hissing from between his teeth. Nick’s foot was poised a centimeter above Aaron’s throat.
Holy crap. Nick had just—
He could have killed Aaron.
The burning in her chest reminded her to inhale.
Nick pulled back his foot. “Switch to working on falls today.” He sounded like an instructor, older than he usually did. “You need to make sure you slap palms down.”
Aaron was a bit slow to rise. The arm that Nick had hit dangled by Aaron’s side but he nodded at Nick.
Callista stared, feeling like a gawker at a car wreck. Panicked. Horrified. Curious. “His arm—”
She swung her gaze back to Nick. She might have noticed that he preferred pens to pencils and did his homework in class. She knew he tapped his foot when he took a quiz. But she’d never noted that he possessed skills like that.
Then the explanation occurred to her. “This is one of those train-to-be-a-ninja-slash-samurai-in-only-six-weeks things.”
Nick’s smile disappeared. “This isn’t some martial arts school.”
Callista nodded at him in what she hoped was a calming manner. “I’m sure it isn’t.”
Nick prowled closer, his energy focused on Callista. He was so close she could see brown flecks dotting his green eyes and three light freckles on the bridge of his nose. The intensity in his gaze made her retreat a step, yet he didn’t look crazy. “The universe has a reason for helping the right people find us. And now it has brought us you.”
Clare Haltom Bio:
Clare Haltom lives in sunny southern California. She can usually be found jumping over waves at the beach, eating Pringles salt-side down, and trying to avoid ninja assassins.
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